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The Body in the Basement

wymering-manorCrime writer and fellow blogger D.S. Nelson has once again provided a fabulous story prompt: the ‘photo you see here of Wymering Manor. Thanks very much, D.S., for the great prompt. Here’s the story that came from it. Folks, you’ll want to visit D.S Nelson’s great site, and try her Blake Heatherington mysteries. You’ll be glad you did. 

 

 

The Body in the Basement

 

‘See that old house over there?’ Dean nudged Manny, who was sitting on the seat beside him.
Manny looked over at the house. ‘So? It’s the old Wymering house. Who cares?’
The light changed to green and Dean put his foot on the accelerator. ‘It’s haunted.’
‘What’s haunted? Your brain?’
‘The house, you idiot! It’s haunted. There’s a body buried under the basement.’
‘You’re so full of shit! There’s no body in the basement.’

The conversation continued as Dean pulled the car into the McDonald’s drive-through lane. ‘I swear there’s a body there,’ he insisted.
‘What? You’ve seen it?’ Manny looked over at his friend.
No,’ Dean admitted, ‘But I know someone who did.’
‘Whatever. Let’s just get our food.’

They got their order, and then Dean dropped Manny off. The whole way there, he kept insisting he was right about the haunted Wymering house.
‘There’s definitely a body there,’ he said, between mouthfuls of burger and fries.
‘I can’t believe you fall for that crap,’ Manny said. He grabbed one of Dean’s fries (he’d finished his own) and shook his head. ‘That’s just some stupid legend they use to scare kids.’
Dean’s eyes lit up. ‘Only one way to know for sure. Let’s go check it out.’
‘You mean go look for a body at the house?’
‘Yeah.’ Then Dean saw Manny’s facial expression.  ‘What? Are you scared, you wuss?’
‘No! It’s just stupid, that’s all.’
‘Ha! You are scared!’
‘No, I’m not. You’re being an idiot. Why are you wasting your time?’
‘Let’s go over there and see. Tonight. We don’t even have to go in. Just check it out, you know?’ Dean could see Manny wavering a little. ‘Come on! We’ll put it up on Snapchat and show everybody at school.’
Manny rolled his eyes. ‘All right, all right. Just shut the hell up.’  He got out of Dean’s car and waved without turning around as Dean shouted, ‘Later!’

At ten-thirty that night, Manny quietly closed the front door of his house, and went down the three stairs to the driveway. Dean was already there, waiting for him. Manny slipped into the front passenger seat of Dean’s car.
‘Let’s do this,’ Dean said with a grin.
‘I still don’t like it.’
‘Shut up and let’s go, loser.’

Ten minutes later, they arrived at the Wymering house. The old place loomed up out of the darkness, backlit by the rising moon. Dean stopped the car, and then opened the glove box. He pulled out a flashlight and turned to Manny.
‘Let’s go,’ he said. The two boys got out of Dean’s car and walked slowly towards the house. In the dark, the upstairs windows looked like sightless eyes, and the chimney like a raised weapon. Dean wasn’t easily spooked, but the house did look eerie at this time of night. He switched on the flashlight as he and Manny approached the house.

All of a sudden, Manny froze in place. He grabbed Dean’s arm and cupped his ear with his other hand. Dean listened closely. That was definitely a noise. It was probably some stray cat hiding under the bushes next to the house. After a second or two the noise stopped. Dean shrugged and pointed towards the front door. The boys got closer, with Dean’s flashlight highlighting dead leaves and branches on either side of the path leading towards the door.

Dean got to the door first and tried the knob. It was locked. Manny hissed, ‘Let’s just go.’
‘We’re not going anywhere. Not until we find out if there’s a body in the house.’
‘You’re crazy!’
‘No, you’re a baby! Loser!’
Dean pointed at the side of the house, and gestured for them to go around the back. Manny shook his head, but went along. Dry leaves crackled under their shoes as they went.

They had more luck at the back of the house. Dean tried the back door – unlocked. He nodded and slowly opened it. The door creaked loudly, but neither boy heard anything else. Dean let the flashlight play around the room. It looked like an old kitchen. In the far corner, he could see a set of stairs going down. He pointed towards them.

Manny shook his head again. He whispered, ‘Dude, we got in, OK? Let’s just Snapchat it real quick and then go.’ He pulled his telephone out of his pocket and started taking pictures of Dean with the stairs in the background. The light from the flashlight lit Dean’s face up just like in The Blair Witch Project.
‘Aw, hell no! Stop that shit! Wait ‘til we see if there’s a body. You coming or not?’
Dean strode to the stairs, and disappeared from Manny’s view. A second later, Manny heard a loud crash. He winced and ran towards the stairs.

‘Manny, what the hell did I tell you? Are you stupid or something? Why’d you bring this kid over?’ Robbie kicked vaguely at Dean’s body, which was sprawled about ten feet from the bottom of the basement stairs.
‘I didn’t! He brought me. He was gonna come here whether I did or not. I tried to stop him,’ Manny insisted.
‘Well, you didn’t try hard enough. Now you gotta help me get rid of him.’
‘I can’t – ”
‘You’re gonna have to. You caused the problem. You solve it. There’s a shovel in the shed outside. Bury him out in the woods behind the house. And move it. There’s not that much time before dawn.’

Manny knew better than to go against his uncle. The drugs had already made Robbie a little crazy, and now that he had his own drug business, he was even weirder. Then Manny looked down at Dean. A sick feeling twisted his stomach. This wasn’t right. There had to be a way to fix things.
On the way out to the shed, it hit Manny. He knew Dean’s Snapchat password. Give that to the cops, and nobody would know he’d turned in his uncle.

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Let’s Get Together! ;-)

gatherings-quizI’ll bet you’re already getting invitations for family and other gatherings. There are a lot of them at this time of year! And it’s all got me to thinking about….

 

 

A quiz!!!  Oh, come on! Don’t you know by now to be careful when you visit this blog?  😉

 

It’s getting to be the time of year when friends and family get together for food, drinks, conversation and good times. But those gatherings can be deadly. As a crime fiction fan, you know all of your crime-fictional gatherings, don’t you? Or do you? Take this handy quiz and find out. Match each question to the correct answer and see how many you get right.

 

Ready? Pick up that piece of cake to begin…if you dare!  😉

 

cake

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When Sleuths Do Advertisements ;-)

whensleuthsadvertiseIt was only a matter of time. After all, fictional sleuths usually have finite means, just like most of us. And advertisers are always looking for new ways to market their products and services. So, it simply made sense for fictional sleuths to start doing endorsements. The idea has a lot of potential, actually. Those sleuths have gotten millions of fans, which means millions of potential customers. And for the sleuths, it’s a welcome source of income. So, if you’ll ask your disbelief to go make some popcorn for TV-watching, let’s see what some of these television advertisements might look like.

Oh, and one important note: I do not personally endorse any of these companies. This is just for fun, folks!

 

When Sleuths do Advertisements

 

I. Signorina Elettra Zorzi (Donna Leon)

The camera pans a modern-looking office. Signorina Elettra is sitting at the desk, looking at her laptop computer. She turns and faces the camera:

In my job, I do a lot of work online. So I need a computer I can depend on every time. That’s the new Lenovo Thinkcentre Serie M. It’s got all the functionality I need, with the clean lines I want. And it’s got enough power to keep up with me.

Vice-questore Patta comes in and hands Signorina Elettra several papers. Then he looks up at the camera and gives a fake smile before exiting.

Even on my busiest days. There’s no limit to what you can do with a Lenovo.

She gives a sneaky sort of smile to the camera, glances quickly over her shoulder, and turns back towards the computer.

 

II. Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie)

Poirot is sitting at a dinner table, just finishing his meal. He looks down with dismay at an obvious stain on the lapel of his jacket.  

Georges! Georges!
Georges appears.
Georges: Yes, sir?
Poirot: A spot of sauce, it has landed on my jacket!
Georges: So it has, sir. But there’s no need to worry. Astoria Cleaners will have that jacket looking like new in no time at all.
Poirot: Astoria Cleaners, you say?
Georges: Yes, sir. They’ve been in business for years, and always do a quality job. I wouldn’t consider any other cleaners for your clothing.

The camera cuts away to another scene. A smiling Georges is standing at a dry-cleaning counter. A smiling assistant hands him Poirot’s jacket. He turns and leaves the store. Then the camera cuts away again. Poirot is standing in front of a full-length mirror, wearing the jacket, which is now perfectly clean. The camera is positioned so that as Poirot looks in the mirror, he is also looking into the camera.

The good Georges, he knows what he is talking about. Astoria Cleaners has done a remarkable job with my suit.

Narrator’s voice: Astoria Cleaners. No matter how particular you are, we’ll make you happy.  

 

III.  Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton)

It’s late at night. Kinsey Millhone is sitting in her car, which is parked on a residential street. She is watching a house. It’s obvious that she’s exhausted. After a moment or two, she straightens up. The door of the house opens and a man walks out. Kinsey picks up a camera from the seat beside her and starts taking pictures. After a moment, she puts the camera down. The man looks her way and Kinsey speeds off.

The camera follows her car to a Taco Bell restaurant, where she pulls into the drive-through lane. She looks at the camera.

As a busy PI, I don’t have time to cook. That’s why I love Taco Bell. They have a great late-night menu, and convenient locations. So I can get what I want, whenever I want. And I don’t have to do the dishes afterwards.

She pulls up to the order window as the camera cuts away. In the next scene, Kinsey is pulled up at a traffic light, holding a burrito in her hand. She smiles at the camera.

I love my Taco Bell!

Voiceover narrator: Taco Bell. The choice of busy PIs everywhere.

 

IV. Russell Quant (Anthony Bidulka)

Russell is sitting in his office, with a radio playing softly. He looks out the window at a heavy snowfall. A voiceover narrator gives a weather forecast of sharply dropping temperatures and continued heavy snow. Russell’s face falls as he says,

I don’t know how much more of this I can take!

Then he gets an idea. He turns towards his computer and types for a moment on his keyboard. The computer brightens up, sends out a burst of light, and, through the magic of CGI, draws him into it.

In the next scene, he’s on a cruise ship, wearing an island-style shirt, happily sitting at a poolside bar, and holding a tropical drink. Next to him is a plate of delicious-looking hors d’oeuvres. Steel drum band music is playing softly in the background. A voiceover narrator says:

Got a case of the winter blahs? Royal Caribbean is the cure. Cruises leave regularly for exciting destinations like Hawai’i, New Zealand, and sunny Mexico. Book your adventure today, at RoyalCaribbean.com

The camera does a close-up on Russell. He lifts his drink and says,

Now this is the way to do winter!

 

V. Inspector John Rebus (Ian Rankin)

Rebus walks into a pub where he’s obviously known. A few people look up and murmur greetings to him. The camera gets closer to him and it’s clear now that he’s had a long day. His clothes are disheveled, and he looks furious. He walks up to the counter.

Landlord: Are ye all right, John? You look like you’ve been through it.
Rebus: Aye, you could say that.

The camera pulls back, and we see some flashback scenes: Rebus arguing with a suspect; Rebus in a tense staff meeting; Rebus pounding his fist on a table as he’s trying to make a point.

Landlord: This’ll help. He reaches for a bottle of Highland Park, and the camera does a close-up on the bottle. A voice-over narrator says,

No need to let a bad day get the better of you. Not when you’ve got Highland Park single malt.

Rebus takes a sip of his whisky, smiles a little, and says,

I’m feeling better already.

Voice-over narration:

Highland Park. The right choice when you’ve had one of those days.

 

VI. Elvis Cole (Robert Crais)

The camera pans part of Elvis Cole’s office. He’s sitting at his desk, brow furrowed in concentration, looking at the well-dressed, very conservative-looking client sitting across from him. His client is droning on about his case, and Cole gets steadily more bored. The droning continues, but much more softly as we hear Cole’s thoughts:

Ugh! How much longer is this going to go on? I need a break!

Cole glances over at his Pinocchio clock to check the time. The clock starts to glow, and a voice-over narrator says,

Sometimes, being a grown-up’s no fun at all.  We have the cure!

In the next scene, Cole, wearing Mickey Mouse ears, is riding on a roller coaster at Disneyland, with Joe Pike by his side. Cole’s screaming with joy, and even Pike’s grinning a little. The voice-over narrator goes on:

Take a break and escape! Great Disneyland packages are available now! Call the toll-free number on your screen or visit Disneyland.com for more information.

What you think? Could our top fictional sleuths be good spokespeople? Which advertisements do you think they could do?

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Come Join the Fun*

launchpartyLaunching a book doesn’t end when the book goes on sale. There’s also the matter of getting the word out, and that often means a launch party. It’s a fun way to get the word out about a new book, and it lets the author connect with the nearby community. Oh, and there’s the food, too.

I had a launch party yesterday for my new book, Past Tense, and it was a great experience. My sincere thanks to Mattucci Winery for providing the lovely setting. It’s just the right size: large enough to accommodate guests, but small and intimate enough so that you don’t mattuccifeel lost. And did I mention the delicious wine? The people are knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful, too.

In case you’ve ever wondered what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ of a launch party, here are some things I had to keep in mind. Those of you who are less interested in what the writing life is like, my apologies. Please come back tomorrow for one of my regular (if there is such a thing!) posts. If you’re a writer, I’d love to know what your experiences have been like.

 

Planning

  • I had to order copies of the book ahead of time. Every publisher’s different of course, but I found that allowing about 4 weeks gave me the time I needed to be sure I’d have those books. And, surprise, surprise, I found that having some copies of one of my earlier novels was helpful too. A few people wanted them.

  • I found that it was worth it to put the word out about the launch party on social media. Flyers are useful, too. I left them in several of the places I haunt (I even left several at my hair stylist’s salon).

  • Swag is fun! For a very reasonable price, I had some classy-looking bookmarks made, and they made very nice giveaways. I needed a couple of weeks of lead time, so I was glad these were ordered ahead of time.

  • One thing that worked for me was to choose ahead of time two passages to read at the launch party, and mark them with adhesive notes. Going over them a few times meant I didn’t stumble (as much) over the words as I read them.

  • I confirmed things ahead of time, and I was glad I did. As it turned out, my launch cake order didn’t go through originally, so I had to put it in again. If I hadn’t checked into it, I wouldn’t have known until too late.

 

Food and Drink

  • No launch party is complete without good food and drinks, too. For me, that was a real advantage of having my party at a winery. But I was also glad we had some non-alcoholic beverages, too.

  • Finger food is your friend.

  • So is food that can stay at room temperature for a while.

  • So is food that isn’t greasy or otherwise messy.

 

The Setup launchpary1

  • I found it was really helpful to get to the winery an hour before the actual party, so we could put everything out. Again, that sounds blatantly obvious, but it did give us the time we needed.

  • It was also helpful to put out a sign indicating the price of the book, next to some copies of it. It takes away the awkwardness of people having to ask how much the book costs.

 

The Actual Event

  • I was ‘on duty’ for the entire time. Mix and mingle. Even when I wasn’t actually reading, people wanted to talk to me. I know, fellow introverts, but that’s the way that it is.

  • That made me doubly glad I wore comfortable clothes and shoes.

  • It really worked for me to let people know a few minutes before I was going to read, so they could gather and listen if they wanted, or excuse themselves if they didn’t.

  • One thing I found was that people wanted to know a little about how I got into writing, how I research, how I go about planning my stories, and so on. Fortunately, I’d thought about those things, so I could answer questions without having to stumble (too much).

 

And Now, the Awkward Part….

Yes, I mean getting people interested in buying the book. Not an easy thing. I found that a few things made it less awkward.

  • I have a Square that lets me take credit card payments. A quick swipe, a smile and a thank you, and it was all good.

  • Having smaller bills ready let me quickly and easily make change for people who had cash. Again, a quick payment, a smile and a thank you, and it was done.

  • Remember that sign I mentioned before? It meant I didn’t have to have that difficult moment of actually asking people to buy a book. They knew. And they could decide to purchase or not without any awkwardness.

 

See? And you thought the work’s done when the book goes on sale…😉

Writers, what has your experience with book launches been like?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this song is a line from Becky Hobbs’ and Mark Sherrill’s All Night Long.

 

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With a Mighty Flash*

flash-fictionIf you’re kind enough to read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I occasionally post short fiction. I enjoy doing it, even if the stories don’t go any further than informal flash fiction.

I’m not the only one, either. Those of you familiar with Prashant, who blogs at Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema, will know that he is quite skilled at flash fiction. He writes very short (100-word) stories as well as slightly longer stories. All are well worth the read.

And he’s invited me to guest post! I’m excited and honoured at the opportunity. Please come pay me a visit at Prashant’s, where I’ll be talking about flash fiction, how it helps the writer, and how one tiny idea from one of my stories helped me write my recent release.

While you’re there, please be sure to have a look around Prashant’s excellent site. Fine fiction, thoughtful and interesting reviews, and helpful insights await you.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Queen’s Flash’s Theme.

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